In the text “Cracking the Code of Genocide” by Monroe, bystanders had a very unconventional way of seeing the Holocaust. We can distinct their point of view by comparing their reasoning with rescuers or collaborators and throughout a few factors, we can observe a constant pattern that is unique to bystanders alone. In the interview by Monroe, she evaluates the actions of bystanders, rescuers and collaborators through their response to personal suffering, the effect of their identity constraining their choices, their cognitive categorization attitude towards others, their worldviews and their values (Jones). First off, the bystander in Monroe’s interview is Beatrix. Her response to the Jews’ suffering was standard if we compare them to any other bystanders. Mostly, bystanders in this context see themselves as too frail to do anything and furthermore, they felt that they had no power over anything that was going on (Monroe, 712). They were simply going with the flow, as if they had no resolve nor motivation (Monroe, 712). To further this point, Beatrix is so entwined in this mindset that it became part of her identity, thereby, her choices are clouded by her pessimist point of views and low confidence. This identity forces her to accept whatever decisions others make for her and causes her to be oblivious and unconcerned by the Jews’ conditions (Monroe, 715-716). It seems she does not have any kind of moral acknowledgement even though she was well aware of their situation at that time, in other words, she was passive. Going forward with this same idea, the cognitive categorization attitude of bystanders towards others was, in all, a low sense of agency, of neglect (Jones). They willfully denied all responsibility over taking any course of action to help any Jews (Jones). Adding up, their personal worldviews also contributed to their roles of bystanders. They had access to a good life, especially with Beatrix, she was very materialistic (Monroe, 719). In some twisted logic, she believed that because she had access to all of this, it prevented her to save anyone. However, this reflects a choice she made unconsciously; she chose her good life over saving or helping any Jews (Jones). If we look at it even deeper, their personal values also contributed to their passive behavior. They were morally insensitive and any precedent traumas to their country had made them more skeptical towards anyone from the “outside” (Monroe, 726). The bystander’s position is mild compared to the rescuers or the collaborators and when comparing these three roles, there are some astonishing contrasts. The main difference between bystanders and rescuers was that where one was “indifferent” to the Jews’ sufferings, the other responded with altruism (Jones). They believe that all humans are one, and that every life should be valued (Monroe, 711-712). Their identity pushes this response to the maximum influencing their choices almost blindly. Indeed, rescuers were brought up in a more traditional western liberal education where when someone needs help, it is their obligation jump right in to assist them (Monroe, 713-714,721,730). They are also the only ones that have a high sense of agency where they believe into taking action to help their cause (Jones). Furthermore, rescuers accept that however horrible one’s action is, it is understandable as we are brought up differently depending on our culture and our education (Monroe, 154). In fact, they believe that education is a form of propaganda (Monroe, 730). Their worldviews also contribute to this line of thought as they are convinced that a good life is a life where you try to make others happy, that life is a benefit and with it comes many responsibilities such as sharing this life with everyone (Monroe, 720). Their personal values were built around these ideas which consolidates their morals. A good disparity, is that for the rescuers any event of trauma, say for example, war, only made them more sympathetic to others, whereas for the collaborators, trauma only made them more skeptical. To say the least, rescuers valued the life of anyone that was destitute, a valid reason to simply jump into action to save them, whereas bystanders just didn’t have second thoughts about being detached by the Jews’ situation. On the other end of the spectrum, are the collaborators, also known as the Nazis. When asked about their opinion of the Jews’ sufferings, they played the victims (Monroe, 713, 728). They believed that genocide was the answer to protect the Germans against the “treats” of the Jews (Monroe, 712). Their identity strengthens this need to protect themselves because they were part of the Nazis group and they had the obligations to do everything in the name of this group, whether it was bad or good (Jones). It is also in part because of their cognitive categorization attitudes about how the separation of cultures was essential to Nazis (Monroe, 729). This enabled them to distance themselves mentally from the Jews and enables them to dehumanize these people. This made it easier for them to kill without hesitation (Monroe, 729-730). When you look at their worldviews, it is very similar to the bystanders (Jones). The only nuance is that they believe historical forces were in control and that they could not change anything. The past in some sense, influenced them to the point where they felt they had no other way besides to go to the point of genocide, that they had “no choice”. Strangely, opposite to bystanders and similar to rescuers, collaborators also had a strong system of values. They were very passionate and had full commitment to their cause. They believed in racial purity, cultural separatism, pride in family and fatherland and nationalism (Monroe, 725). These values only heighten their blindness to the reality of what they were doing. In all, these variations paint the bystanders as people that had difficulty coming to terms with the wrongness of their reality as they have been brainwashed through propaganda their whole lives. It shows that they were compliant to what they have been told and never questioned any information they were given. Whereas, rescuers believed in the sanctity of every life, the Nazis had blind faith to their cause. To be short, they all truly believed in the righteousness of their actions at that time.
The bystander effect is something that one can define as the effect of the presence of people can affect your judgement or reaction of a situation (Strickland). There are two components to this behavior and they are pluralistic ignorance and diffusion of responsibility. Pluralistic ignorance is that in the presence of a group situation, one tends to not intervene or acts as if nothing was wrong. In all, all individuals present seem to categorize the event as non-urgent. This concepts basically influences a whole group of individuals into a passive mood. The second concept is diffusion of responsibility where each individual present in the group believes someone else will take charge, will take up the responsibility to do the right thing. They solely believed that this figurative person would take on all obligations to help or take the necessary steps in the specific situation (Strickland). In today’s society, bystanders happen mostly in hate attacks in public installments or sexual harassments in workplace (“Activists Prepare Bystanders to take Action Against Harassment”; Noguchi). People stand by without intervening even though it happens right in front of them. This happen even though they can clearly see the discomfort of the victims. Yet, the difference between bystanders today and Beatrix is that they are not passive to the situation, in fact, they are afraid to take any actions because they do not want to get hurt themselves or cause any backlash for the victim, to make a situation worse than it is presently by speaking up (“Activists Prepare Bystanders to take Action Against Harassment”; Noguchi). The problem with rape culture or hate crimes is that it is often gone unreported, therefore it is harder to fix (Noguchi). Nonetheless, by refusing to say or do anything when you are a witness is to bear the burden of silence and in some way allowing rape culture or hate crimes to persist. In terms of hate crimes, it has seen a rise ever since Donald Trump took office and with such a high figure encouraging such a thing, it is the people’s responsibility to take part in the movement to counter these harassments, sexual or violent (Noguchi).
Today, facing the rise of hate attacks, people are trying to fight back, to become upstanders instead of bystanders (“Activists Prepare Bystanders to take Action Against Harassment”). These people would intervene in the given situations instead of simply walk away. When you are in a present situation of harassment, the hardest part is to figure out how to get involve safely for yourself and the victim as well. According to Wang, before taking any course of action, you must be calm and figure out your course of action and take into consideration where you are compared to the harasser, are you at risk of being physically strike at if the attacker would decide to attack. After doing so, you can try a few methods, to loosen the atmosphere. You don’t need to necessarily go face to face with the harasser, you could make sure everyone around is aware of the harassment taking place, ask if someone could call security, you could ignore the harasser and instead approach the victim or simply distract the harasser with some banal questions for directions, in order to move them away from the victim(“Activists Prepare Bystanders to take Action Against Harassment”). These are some of the many techniques people are being taught in some workshops given at the Center for Anti-Violence Education (“Activists Prepare Bystanders to take Action Against Harassment”).
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Jones, Maureen R. “Cracking the Code of Genocide.” 345-102-MQ: Worldviews of Heroes and
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Bystanders.” Weekend Edition Saturday, 15 Oct. 2016. Global Issues in Context,
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